Cheese, Chocolate and Spirits. Friday 23rd Oct, Butler House

The first of these 3 special Biabeag Meet the Makers events kicks off with a trio grounded in Kilkenny. The theme is the After Dinner Treat and our producers will be messing with your taste buds a little bit with their tastings. Tickets for all 3 events here.

Each of these evenings has a lead producer – the one whose works with the others to shape the evening and on Friday its Julie Calder Potts from Highbank.

Julie Calder Potts, Highbank Organic Orchard

Julie and Rod (her husband and parter on the farm) have farmed organically for over 20 years and now they have the largest organic orchard in Ireland. Having moved from apple juice to orchard syrup (like maple but nicer!) they then developed a range of ciders before reaching the pinnacle of their range – the Single Estate Gin, Vodka and Brandey which they launched in December 2014.

I’ve known Julie and Rod for over a decade and they have become great friends of mine. I admire their ability to constantly develop and refine and their dedication to organic farming.


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Mary Teehan, Truffle Fairy

For just over a decade Mary has been making a range of award winning chocolates in Kilkenny. Starting at home and selling at farmers markets she make the jump to her own production area and cafe in Thomastown and started to export as well as sell here in Ireland.

For the first couple of years of her business I couldn’t buy from Mary as the limited space she had meant she could not do a vegan range. Since she moved she has always had at least one truffle in the range that is vegan and also produces a constantly evolving range of raw chocolate slices. Happiness for me!

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Helen Finnegan, Knockdrinna

Helen set up a year before Mary (2004) and she slowly expanded with the help of Carlow based cheese maker Elizabeth Bradley. In 2008 she took over the cheeses made by Lavistown in Kilkenny and in the same year she became involved with the Little Cheese Company – an organic cheese collective based in Waterford.

She has won stacks of awards, the most special being the win of Knockdrinna Gold semi-hard goats cheese at the 2013 British Cheese Awards where it was named ‘Best Modern British’.

I know Helen since she worked in Local Rural Development in Kilkenny where the obviously glamorous life of food producers lured her to start up herself. Oops 🙂

Tickets for this event are €10 and you can buy them here



Videos of Meet the Chocolate Makers @thetrufflefairy @BLYSS_choc @Beanandgoose

Thanks as ever to Ken McGuire, AnyGivenFood, for videoing and editing/design of these rough cuts of the evening. This was a fixed camera as he had to head away but captured most of the evening 🙂

And thanks to the crowd who turned up, to Julie and Rod Calder Potts for their work in hosting and to Karen, Mary and Lyss for sharing their passion and stories with us 🙂

Karen Keane, Bean and Goose

Mary Teehan, Truffle Fairy

Alyssa Jade McDonald, Blyss Chocolate


The 4 minute guide to Cacao Bean’s by @BLYSS_choc

As the Biabeag series of talks and sessions develops it is good to move further back and explore the provenance of the raw materials and the early processing that they are subjected to.

In this short video Lyss talks us through the word of cacao beans and helps us to understand how vital they are to the end product. Get them wrong (and we covered this a lot during the Roaster event) and you are guaranteed to fail.

You can meet, listen to and discuss cacao with Lyss, Karen from Bean and Goose and Mary from Truffle Fairy on Saturday November 8th. Click here for more info and to book.


Artisan Chocolate business with strong technology overtones

I saw this on twitter a month ago (thanks to Lucy Richard) and just back to it now. Take the Wired founder and a technologist who hung out around the Space Shuttle program, set the location as San Francisco and then film a number of slots with BoingBoingTV and you end up with TCHO.

Part one covers the origins of chocolate and explores the sensual side of the beans and the product. For more click through to youtube.

Enjoy it, Keith



Recent Foodspotting activity roundup

4 products spotted out and about in the last week:

Old Tom Ale

From Robinsons in the UK this one was voted World’s Best Ale. I bought the Chocolate laced sidekick from the same brewery and really enjoyed it. Spotted in the Wine Centre in Kilkenny.

Vivani Chocolates

The Nuts & Grains health food shop in Mullingar (link to their FB page) have the largest selection of this brand I have seen under one roof – 19 varieties! This is a German brand and was launched in 2000 from Ludwig Weinrich as a fully organic chocolate.

Zanna Cookhouse

Based in Broadway Co. Wexford (and with no website – link to their listing on mychefathome) this small business produce a range of quiches, pies and other foods. Anyone tasted their products?

Highbank Apple Juice

From the organic Kilkenny farm business which just launched the Apple Syrup comes this apple juice. Really tasty, I had some at foodcamp. Both this and the Zanna quiche was spotted in Nellies Farm Shop in Kilkenny (no website).

You can see all of my activity here.


6 chocolatiers featured in the FT paper today

A tantalising selection of chocolate makers here:


Celtic Chocolates, Ireland

*quick rant – yet another great Irish food brand without a website. This one is going for 10 years, employs nearly 20 people (as far as I can tell) and has just started a great new line with the UK in their sites. And no website to support that growth. Words fail me, seriously. There is an address on their packaging but it does not exist. And it used to, I saw it. Enough, end of rant*

I met the founder of this business years ago (Joe Callery) and he is passionate about the quality of what they do. Production of their lines for people who have allergies is taken seriously – the line is closed down and steam cleaned to remove all traces of previous raw materials before a Dairy Free batch is made. That was then and it would not surprise me if they have dedicated lines now.

Their chocolates are award winning at the Great Taste Awards and they have some Fairtrade products as well. however the standout for me right now is the Vegan Caramel Choices – truely the best non-dairy soft toffee which I have tasted (check out the core raw material here). These are available around Ireland and should be in the UK as well. Check them out.


UPDATE – have just published an entry for Celtic on the Irish FoodBase:

Listing of Artisan chocolatiers in San Francisco

Extract from article:

Only in San Francisco, with its rich and lucious history of food, can one find four of the nation’s 11 major chocolate manufacturers and a disproportionate number of unique boutique chocolatiers.The Bay Area is home to some of the greatest chocolate factories in world including: The Ghirardelli Chocolate Company, See’s Candies , Scharffen Berger Chocolate (recently acquired by the Hershey Company) and Tcho


Artisan at work: Rogue Chocolatier

Rogue Chocolatier

One man bean-to-bar chocolate making in Minneapolis

At a mere 24-years-old, Colin Gasko is fervently bringing the fine art of bean-to-bar chocolate making to the Midwest. Over the past few years, the Minneapolis-based Rogue Chocolatier has experimented with techniques….

Gasko sources his own cocoa and oversees the entire three-day-long production process…..

Gasko offers four different flavors of chocolate created from beans around the world, as well as the occasional limited edition…..

Read on Cool Hunting

Nothing to add to this, that would be amazing chocolate.


6 Artisan producers featured in Food and Wine mag, USA

Via the True Blue Ridge blog came this feature from the September Food and Wine magazine in the USA. It features the following 6 small scale producers

Some great stories (and great websites too). The photo is from the North Caroline Organic Bread blog.